Medicine Dance

Medicine Dance

One woman's healing journey into the world of Native.American Shamanism Eat, Pray, Love but without food or water.


Finalist in the USA Book News National 2007 Awards in the New Age Non-Fiction category

Finalist in USA Best Book Awards 2008

Finalist in 2008 New Mexico "Best Books" Awards

First Runner-up for the 2009 Zia Book Award.

Prompted by a bad mammogram, Marsha Scarbrough, a middle-aged divorcee with a downhill career in film production, sought healing from Native American mystic Joseph Rael, also known as "Beautiful Painted Arrow". The amazing result of his treatment inspired Marsha to begin an apprenticeship in this ancient tradition. In her engaging narrative memoir, Marsha shares the wisdom gained from her experiential participation in Native American shamanism and illustrates the relevance of its ancient teachings to contemporary life. Though the "lessons" of Medicine Dance have similarities to the material presented by Don Miguel Ruiz, Carlos Castaneda and Lynn Andrews, they are embedded in a fast-paced narrative memoir that covers the ground of ordinary life- relationships, co-dependency, work and health problems. Marshas story proves that if she can walk this path, anyone can.


Having experienced some of these ceremonies myself, the accounts in the book rang clear and true and reminded me of the wonder of these traditions. Unsensational, honest and straightforward in style, it is a book about death, life, and the power and direct simplicity of these ancient ways which contrast starkly with her experience of cold clinical treatments that run alongside in the narrative. This is a good, pacey story of healing in our times, relevant and soul-warming. ~ Jan Morgan Wood, Sacred Hoop

Marsha Scarbrough has transcended the usual female cancer survivor story to write a tale of people trying to put their houses in order, trying to move past the mistakes they've made, trying to make sense of the lives they find themselves one day living. It's really a beautiful, candid piece about friendship, independence, loneliness, and above all, forgiveness. ~ Glen Mazzara, Executive Producer, The Shield

The threat of cancer drives many to despair and denial. But it drove Marsha Scarbrough to undertake a shamanic quest for healing of the heart as well as the body. She shares her remarkable story of a middle-aged white woman apprenticed to a Native American healer with candor and a delicious sense of humor. She steps boldly into the unknown, and learns to dance to a different drum! I loved every page. ~ Tim Ward, Author of Savage Breast: One Man's Search for the Goddess

Some readers may be offended by the idea of a white woman ‘playing Indian,’ admits Marsha Scarbrough in the preface of her new memoir, Medicine Dance. The book, which details her multi-year exploration of Native American spirituality—guided by non-traditional healer Beautiful Painted Arrow (Joseph Rael)—does at first seem to be a fairly stereotypical account. From ancestor prayers to sweat lodges and dance fasts, she follows her teacher’s advice unfailingly, from California to New Mexico, despite feeling at times skeptical or ridiculous. But Scarbrough’s unflinching inner dialogue, combined with Rael’s approach—adapted for “contemporary society and people of many cultures”—helps avoid the high-mindedness that plagues similar tales. Scarbrough is careful to present her story as the journey of one individual, consistently focusing on her own struggles with family, cancer, mortality, and a sometimes horrifyingly impersonal healthcare system. With its polished prose and meticulous description, Dance stands as a graceful illustration of how free cultural exchange helped heal one life. ~ , Santa Fean magazine, August 2007

A great book! Marsha Scarbrough was allowed the gift that most Caucasians are not afforded; that of participating in the sweat lodges, and ceremonial dance. It was fascinating to read of her experiences firsthand. I loved the author’s explanation of the ‘Fasting Dances,’ and the ‘Sun Moon Dance’ was utterly heart stopping. ~ Rev Dr Sandra Gaskin,

Medicine Dance is a very well-written, first hand account of the thoughts and emotions that accompany ill health, and provides an insight into Native American Shamanism as a possible mechanism for unravelling those thought processes and emotions. Well worth a read, as it deals with a difficult subject in a warm and sensitive way. ~ Julia Heywood, Author of The Barefoot Indian (O Books)

A roller coaster narrative, beautifully expressed. ~ , Network Review

Medicine Dance is just fabulous. I couldn't put it down. Rarely have I read anything that gets as close to the whole truth about health, disease and relationships. ~ Christiane Northrup, Author of Women's Bodies, Women's Wisdom, The Wisdom of Menopause

Medicine Dance is a compelling teaching story of healing and transformation. ~ Brooke Medicine Eagle, Author of Buffalo Woman Comes Singing and The Last Ghost Dance

Marsha Scarbrough's Medicine Dance is beautifully told, breathtakingly honest, clear as a diamond and potentially transformative. By the time I reached the end (in one sitting) I wanted to sit at her feet. It is a moving and superbly told story of an ordinary woman learning to understand herself and the dynamics of her relationships with others. At another level, it is the story of an apprenticeship in ancient and sacred ways of healing and transformation. As with all good teaching stories, while you are listening to the narrative, deep soul lessons tend to sneak right through the gates of your unconscious. So this is a spiritual health warning: after you read this book you might find yourself taking risks you never had the courage to take before. ~ Marian Van Eyk McCain, Author of Transformation Through Menopause, Elderwoman

A wonderfully written book of one woman's healing journey. it is full of rich stories and surprise, and will inspire and amuse the reader. ~ Joan Halifax Roshi, Author of Shaman: The Wounded Healer, The Fruitful Darkness, On Death and Dying

Compelling and disarmingly straightforward story, in a crisp and matter-of-fact, but utterly engaging style. The most remarkable element in this book is Scarbrough's talent for writing about her vital experiences in sweatlodges, at drum dances, about her dreams and visions, in a register and style so lucid and unobtrusive that the events described become as real and believable to her readers as those of her day-to-day life. This merging of the mystical and the mundane weaves through the whole narrative, making the story coherent, engaging, and bright with hope. This book should find the wide audience that it so fully deserves. ~ Neil Besner, Dean of Humanities, University of Winnipeg, Professor of Canadian literature, author

A provocative and stirring narrative of one woman's inner journey. A deeply moving account of triumph over illness and the sacred connection between body and mind. ~ Margaret Leslie Davis, Author of Rivers in the Desert

Marsha Scarbrough
Marsha Scarbrough While studying journalism at the University of Southern California, Marsha Scarbrough was named Guest Feature Editor of Mademoiselle Magazin...
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